Will ‘Complementarianism’ Survive?

I want to continue to call myself a complementarian. But we need to reclaim the term.

Is there a future for complementarianism? I don’t mean whether the God-ordained concept of complementarity between men and women will itself continue to exist—those of us who hold to the principle of equality and distinction between men and women understand it to be grounded in Scripture itself. Rather, I’m speaking of complementarianism as a specific movement, a coherent framing of some of those biblical convictions.

I’d very much like to be able to continue describing myself as complementarian by conviction, believing that Scripture prescribes particular roles for men and women in the church and in the home. But in recent years, the increasing cancellation, co-option, and cannibalization of complementarianism as a term has led me to question whether I will continue to use it to describe my beliefs.

Since the word complementarianism was first used in the late 1980s to describe or frame the theological beliefs I hold, the concept has been subject to much critique. Now as Christians, we should not fear inquiry but embrace healthy and respectful criticism. It compels us to interrogate our thinking, identify our unspoken assumptions, and grow in our understanding and knowledge of God.

But cancellation is different. Cancellation doesn’t simply say, I think you are wrong, and here’s why. It says, You don’t deserve to exist. There is no place for you here. And unfortunately, an increasing number of opponents of complementarianism are choosing to leapfrog over critique to land on cancellation. Indeed, many newer and younger commentators now typically condemn all expressions of complementarianism—in every time and in every place—as being inherently abusive and intolerable.

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